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Connecting campers to their support systems, virtually

Camp Sunshine is for families with sick children, but meeting in person isn't an option because of COVID-19. So like many other things, they're going virtual.

CASCO, Maine — Camp Sunshine decided early to cancel its in-person programs due to COVID-19 and because so many of the children who attend have compromised immune systems.

"[We were] pretty sad about it. We had a couple of nights where we had some tears about it," Jerusha Chicoine said. This would have been the Chicoine family's seventh year at camp. Jerusha has three boys, 10-year-old Broderic and 7-year-old twins Weston and Foster.

In the words of Broderic, Foster's the one "brings us to camp," he said excitedly. That's because Foster was diagnosed with a tumor in his eye when he was a baby.

"They had to take his left eye at six months," Jerusha said.

It's a difficult diagnosis for any family but Camp Sunshine has played a vital role in the family's journey.

"It has really made our journey easier to have the people and have the support," she said.

But like so many things this year, Camp Sunshine will be held virtually.

The camp has sent a "box of sunshine" to all its campers. The boxes are full of crafts, recipes for fan-favorite camp food, smores supplies, and more in order to bring camp home.

RELATED: Can't go to summer camp? Bring it home, instead.

According to Ron Hall, the executive director of Maine Summer camps, 50 of the 175 camps are operating in-person this year. Those that are, are doing so with fewer campers and more staff. This is about a $150 million loss to the $200 million industry here in Maine, Hall said.

But for campers at Camp Sunshine, the real loss is not being able to see those friends who have helped so much.

"On those days that are really hard those are the people I go to because they get it," Jerusha said.

So this year, it's not big hugs at camp, "but just seeing these families is going to be nice," Camp Sunshine executive director Michael Katz said.

Monday night Camp Sunshine kicks off its program for those suffering from neuroblastoma and other eye cancers, like Foster.

RELATED: Hundreds of Maine families plan to camp out at same time as part of first ever Maine Backyard Campout

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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